The theme of recent days has been gratitude – marked by Remembrance Sunday and rightly so. I had considered writing something along those lines but serious stuff is not my natural metier so I thought I would turn the theme on its head and write about ingratitude. For some reason, the following tale came to mind. This is a true story, from many years ago, involving my darling son and daughter when they were roughly 7 and 4 respectively.
To set the scene: daughter had gone to play with a little friend from Nursery for the first time. This was the only child of older parents and clearly was a very precious gift who led a somewhat Enid Blyton existence, unlike my two whose natural inclinations were (and still are) more Andy McNab, truth be told.
However, no matter how obnoxious and abrasive your offspring, there is still the tiny bubble of doubt that lingers when you take them to play at the house of a friend. The children know each other well, but the parents do not. Perhaps they’re covert child molesters? Worse still, perverted philatelists who might try and get my Special Issue under their First Day Covers?
I needn’t have worried. I turned up to collect my daughter, with my son in tow, when the allotted two hours were up. She emerged from a plastic play tunnel and glowered at me. Her mouth turned down in disappointment and she bawled ‘I don’t wanna go home and I’M NOT GOING.’ This statement was followed up with a right hook that Amir Khan would have envied. She aimed for my chin. However, being only 4 years old, she missed by about two feet, but connected neatly and fatefully with my crotch.
Every bone in my pelvis reverberated with the shock of the blow and I was, as luck would have it, struck dumb by the pain. The parents of the host child stopped and stared in amazed embarrassment. Their guest, an erstwhile compliant little angel, had become a whirling dervish. She sensed my distress and hesitated momentarily – just long enough for me to grab her and head for the exit.
Her brother had stood quietly by all this time. I looked beseechingly at him – willing my brave 7 year old to rescue the situation.
As I hobbled to the door with his sister firmly held in a Half Nelson, he stepped forward to speak and fill the vacuum left by my inability to form any sounds other than wheezing grunts. He smiled a little sadly.
‘You know, she’s the worst sister I ever had,’ he confided to our shell-shocked hosts, ‘and her bum stinks like a rubbish dump.’
Back in the car, I treated them to a lecture, delivered at such a pitch that probably 80% of it was audible only to the neighbourhood cats or a passing dolphin. I spent the rest of the day wondering why my children, diving deep into the gene pool available to them, had emerged triumphant clutching fistfuls of rogue genes and undesirable character traits. Frankly, I blame the Shah.